After Democratic state lawmakers in Texas staged a walkout at a legislative session in order to stop passage of the newest voter suppression bill, Fox News is mounting a public relations push in support of continued Republican efforts to pass that bill and others like it.
After assisting former President Donald Trump’s attempt to subvert the 2020 election, Fox News has been actively supporting GOP efforts to crack down on voting and undermine American democracy. In service of this new wave of voter suppression legislation, the network has made dishonest comparisons between these proposals and the voting laws in Democratic-controlled states, often ignoring key differences or outright lying in order to make this case.
Right-wing efforts to overturn elections failed in 2020. Texas’ bill could help them succeed next time.
The Texas bill would forbid drive-through early voting centers that were set up in the Houston area, which were used heavily by minority voters in 2020. During the campaign, a number of Texas Republicans filed a lawsuit that sought to throw out 127,000 ballots that had already been cast through the drive-through voting centers, but the attempt was rejected in both state and federal courts.
The bill also threatens criminal charges against election workers for obstructing the view of partisan poll watchers, who were a frequent topic of conspiracy theories spread by both the Trump campaign and Fox News during the presidential vote count and the Georgia Senate runoffs.
But probably the most dangerous element of the bill is that it would make it easier for judges to overturn entire election results, by changing the burden of proof for election fraud claims from “clear and convincing evidence” to a lesser standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” This comes in the wake of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s failed attempts in 2020 to sue other states and overturn Joe Biden’s victories. (The effort was also heavily promoted by Fox News and other right-wing media, though the Supreme Court made short work of it.)
Jonathan Chait writes in New York magazine:
After Donald Trump rejected the election outcome and began his effort to undo it, Republicans calmly insisted that they merely wished to allow “the legal process” to play out, as if the normal way to handle elections was through a series of hysterical charges and groundless lawsuits. The Texas bill indicates that this “process” will become routine, at least in any election Democrats win.
And while Republicans removed at the last minute an especially controversial provision that would have changed the formula for allocating voting machines — which would have reduced the number of polling places in communities of color — another notable clause still in the bill restricts Sunday voting hours to begin after 1 p.m. This would have a negative impact on the “Souls to the Polls” vote drives often conducted by predominantly Black churches. (One of the bill’s lead sponsors now says that was a typo in the bill: “I think there was a — call it a mistake if you want to — what should have been 11 was actually printed up as 1.”)
Fox’s sleight of hand: Compare other parts of this bill to laws in blue states — but inaccurately.
One major talking point in the network’s latest coverage is to say that voting laws in Delaware are more stringent than even the new Texas proposals, claiming that Biden’s home state does not even offer early voting or no-excuse absentee ballots. But this is a dishonest series of talking points that already circulated months ago, and it ignores the actual election practices in Delaware during the 2020 election and going forward.
For example, while Delaware still requires voters to provide an excuse for absentee voting, the state declared in 2020 that concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic would be a valid excuse. This move effectively opened up universal access to mail-in voting as an emergency measure — something that Texas steadfastly refused to do. In addition, Delaware is now preparing to implement in-person early voting in 2022, and a bill has also been introduced in the legislature to provide for no-excuse absentee voting on a permanent basis.
During the June 1 edition of America’s Newsroom, Republican Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made a misleading comparison between his state’s new bill and the voting laws in Delaware: “We have two weeks of early voting — which is two weeks more than the president’s home state of Delaware has; they have none — so this is not voter suppression.” A similar comparison was made later during The Faulkner Focus by Republican panelist Matt Gorman. In both cases, the anchors offered no pushback or clarification. And in both instances, Fox’s purported “straight news” side showed a series of visuals meant to contrast a “claim” or “fiction” about the Texas voting bill with a “fact” about it — none of which addressed the bill’s design to make overturning an election much easier.
Then on Tuesday’s edition of Outnumbered, Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner teamed up with co-host Kayleigh McEnany to push a series of false equivalencies about voting laws.
During McEnany’s time working as both White House press secretary and Trump campaign adviser, she promoted a variety of election misinformation and also called for the Georgia state legislature to overturn the election. Such efforts might have stood a better chance of succeeding under this Texas bill’s provisions and in combination with a friendly judge — but she and Faulkner did not discuss that element of the story.
On America Reports, co-anchor John Roberts opened up a panel discussion by asking: “But whether it’s Texas, or whether it’s Georgia, or other states, Republicans seem to be on the defensive for something they say is a good idea. Why are the Democrats really controlling the message here?”
To his liberal guest, Roberts also pushed the talking point that “many of these laws, whether it’s Georgia, whether it’s Florida, whether it’s Texas, they are less restrictive than voting laws are in the president’s home state of Delaware. So how in the world is it racist? How in the world is it voter suppression?”
Roberts also asked: “Democrats are saying that this Texas voting law is the suppression of democracy, but is walking out on a vote not suppressing democracy itself?”
One might ask which sounds worse: Skipping a vote on the one hand, or preventing others from even casting a vote — or even throwing out entire election results — on the other?